What NOT to Eat When Breastfeeding

6 foods you should avoid if you are nursing.

We spend so much time worrying about what we put into our bodies while pregnant, it’s easy to forget we’re still eating for two while breastfeeding! Now that your sweet baby is in your arms instead of your belly you can finally indulge in the things you’ve been missing: tuna tartare, a tall Sapporo, Italian subs. But there are some things nursing mamas want to steer clear of.

What we eat passes through our breast milk to our little ones. Certain foods we might love can upset their tiny bellies, make them gassy, or even affect brain development. We know you want to make sure you’re doing everything you can for your little one, so we’ve come up with a cheat sheet to help you keep track of what foods to avoid while nursing.

1. Foods with high mercury levels

Fish with high levels of mercury are a big no-no while nursing–so much so that the EPA asks pregnant and nursing moms to avoid those high mercury level fish like shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel. Being exposed to too much mercury can have an effect our babies tiny, developing brains, impacting their cognitive thinking, memory and fine motor skills. The EPA also suggests limiting canned tuna to six ounces per week while breastfeeding.

2. Sweet ‘n Low

While most artificial sweeteners are considered safe during pregnancy and the breastfeeding period, Sweet ‘n Low is not. It’s made of saccharin, a chemical compound 300 times as sweet as sucrose. In fact, the FDA says saccharin isn’t safe for anyone to ingest. Take a look at the ingredient list on your canned fruit and diet sodas to see if saccharin is included. If it is, you might want to leave them in the pantry, at least until you’re finished nursing. But it might not be as easy as you think – in a study of lab animals by Harvard, saccharine was found to be more addictive than cocaine!

3. Foods that can upset baby’s belly

Every mom knows the exasperation of a baby with gas pain. One way to help mitigate gas pain in your little one is to avoid foods that are known to make you gassy, like cucumbers, celery and cabbage. Babies, especially those with reflux, are also super sensitive to acid in citrus fruits. Culprits like oranges, lemons, pineapples, and strawberries are known to make reflux problems worse and create a mess of babies’ tiny gastrointestinal tracts. There’s no need to cut all of these fruits and veggies out cold turkey, but if you notice belly troubles with your baby – try cutting one or two out for a week and see if it makes a difference.

4. Cow’s milk

As many as 7.5 percent of babies in America are thought to have a cow’s milk protein allergy. Symptoms are quite varied, but include issues with their gastrointestinal tracts, respiratory systems and skin. Some telltale signs include: reflux, diarrhea, blood in stool, wheezing, and eczema. Not all babies have all symptoms. If you think your baby might have an allergy to the protein in cow’s milk, talk to your doctor and try cutting dairy from your diet completely. It may take as long as a week without dairy to see an improvement in your baby. It’s important to realize an allergy to cow’s milk protein is not the same as being lactose intolerant – so taking Lactaid won’t cut it.

5. Too much caffeine

Bring on the lattes! Yes, you can finally have more than 200 mg of caffeine a day, but you’ll still want to temper your caffeine intake while nursing. Twenty-five ounces of coffee a day won’t cause a problem for most babies. That’s about two talls from Starbucks. However, too much caffeine can make your baby edgy, fussy and unable to fall asleep. We know caffeinated beverages aren’t easy on adults with acid reflux, and the same for your baby. If your little one has reflux, you might want to avoid these drinks altogether.

6. Too much alcohol

First, let’s bust that myth that alcohol stimulates milk production. It doesn’t. But you can still drink it anyway (thank goodness!). The American Academy of Pediatrics says it’s fine to drink while breastfeeding, but you should have your glass of wine right after a nursing or pumping session, not before. Check out this Well Rounded chart describing how long you should wait to nurse or pump, depending on how much you’ve had to drink. If you want to be extra sure your milk is safe for baby, invest in in some breast milk alcohol test strips, like these from UpSpring.

Hanna Nakano

Hanna Nakano

Hanna Nakano is a D.C. based journalist + writer, and mama to Mila Yayoi. She's married to a medical doctor with a culinary degree; you can find their recipes and ramblings at Chef Meets Girl. Say hi on Instagram.

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